Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led his country through an era of profound upheaval from 1989 until the early 2000s, died Wednesday at the age of 96. “Jiang Zemin died of leukemia and multiple organ failure in Shanghai at 12:13 p.m. (4:13 GMT) on November 30, 2022, at the age of 96,” Xinhua News Agency reported.
New China clarified that the announcement of the death had been made in a letter from the Chinese authorities expressing “deep sadness”, addressed to the entire Chinese Communist Party, the army and the people. His death came after all medical treatment had failed, she said. “Comrade Jiang Zemin was an outstanding leader (…), a great Marxist, a great proletarian revolutionary, a statesman, a military strategist and a diplomat, a long-time communist fighter, and an outstanding leader of the great cause socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the state agency said, quoting the letter.
The “Shanghai Gang”
Jiang Zemin had come to power in the aftermath of the crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and had accompanied the transformation of the world’s most populous nation into a world power.
Deng Xiaoping had called him to head the Chinese Communist Party in June 1989, impressed by the mastery with which Jiang Zemin had just peacefully put an end to pro-democracy demonstrations in his city of Shanghai, without shedding blood as in Beijing. After thirteen years at the head of the party (1989-2002), he became president for ten years (1993-2003). Analysts say Jiang Zemin and his “Shanghai Gang” – the faction supporting him – continued to have a big influence on Chinese politics long after he left power.
An influence on Chinese political life after his retirement
When Jiang Zemin was officially appointed in 1989 by former leader Deng Xiaoping as his successor, China was only at the beginning of its economic modernization. But when he stepped down as president in 2003, China had become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), had won the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was on its way to becoming a superpower.
Former mayor and head of the Communist Party in Shanghai, Jiang Zemin continued, with a close circle of leaders, to exert influence on Chinese political life even after his official retirement, according to analysts.
Immediately after news of her passing, state media all posted the same black-and-white photo of a chrysanthemum on the official accounts of Chinese social network Weibo. The article dedicated to the ex-president on the Baidu online encyclopedia, a sort of Chinese Wikipedia, was also in black and white.
Flags will fly at half-mast on government buildings, state broadcaster CCTV said.